Chapter Thirty-Three: A Decade of Persecution, 1877–87

Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual, (2003), 422–434


The Church faced one of its most difficult, as well as one of its most exciting, decades immediately following the death of Brigham Young. The United States government, with the encouragement and support of many reform groups, passed laws, saw that they were enforced, and launched a media campaign against the practice of plural marriage. In spite of intense persecution, the Church under John Taylor’s able leadership continued to grow in numbers, expand its colonies, and unfold its programs.1

Events during Apostolic Presidency

Following the death of President Young, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once more led the Church. In a meeting of this body on 4 September 1877, three important decisions were made. First, that the Twelve should take their place as the presiding quorum of the Church; second, that Elder John Taylor should be appointed as president of that quorum; and third, that Elders John W. Young and Daniel H. Wells were “to stand as counselors to the Twelve as they did to Brigham Young.”2

A month later, on 6 October 1877, following a pattern that dated back to the dedication of the Kirtland Temple but had not been practiced for many years, Elder George Q. Cannon announced to those assembled at the general conference that the afternoon session would be a priesthood solemn assembly. Elder Cannon then gave directions for the seating of the various priesthood quorums. The solemn assembly that afternoon voted unanimously by quorums to accept President John Taylor as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and “the Twelve Apostles as the presiding quorum and authority of the Church.”3

Born in England and trained there as a cooper, or barrel maker, John Taylor went to Canada as a young man. There he met and married Leonora Cannon, who was ten years his senior. Although he was a devout Methodist, when he encountered the Church he began an earnest investigation and for a period of three weeks did not miss a single sermon delivered by Elder Parley P. Pratt. He wrote them down, compared them with the scriptures, prayed about the Church, and was converted. Ordained an Apostle in 1839, he served as editor of many of the Church’s periodicals, almost lost his life with the Prophet Joseph in Carthage Jail, and served many Church missions. He was known as a fearless defender of the faith; his personal motto was “The kingdom of God or nothing.” He responded faithfully to all of the calls given him during his almost thirty years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was thus prepared in every way to lead the Church through a tumultuous sea of persecution.

After Brigham Young’s funeral, John Taylor and the Twelve turned to the difficult problem of sorting through President Young’s estate to determine how much of it belonged to the Church and how much to his heirs. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 had made it illegal for the Church to own property valued at more than fifty thousand dollars, other than that which was used exclusively for religious purposes. As a result of the law, properties that were acquired by the Church were placed in the hands of President Brigham Young. President Taylor continued the policy of secretly holding certain Church business properties in the names of individual trustees. President Taylor assigned George Q. Cannon, Albert Carrington, and Brigham Young, Jr. (the latter to represent the family’s interests) as executors of the estate. Their task was made more difficult by the tremendous publicity and speculation that appeared in the nation’s newspapers. Rumors were rampant that the estate was worth millions of dollars, raising the expectations of some of his large family.

After several months of dedicated work, the three executors determined that the estate was worth approximately $1,626,000. Over a million dollars of this actually belonged to the Church, however. When the monetary amount did not meet their high expectations, seven of Brigham’s heirs filed a complaint in the third district court, and the case went into litigation, causing even more national publicity. Siding with the heirs, the clearly anti-Mormon judge, Jacob S. Boreman, ruled that the executors were in contempt of court. Elders Cannon, Young, and Carrington spent three weeks of August 1879 in the Utah Territorial Penitentiary before the Territorial Supreme Court reversed Judge Boreman’s decision. Church leaders then agreed to give the heirs an additional $75,000 to settle the case.4

In the April 1880 general conference, the Church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, and President Taylor, drawing from the Old Testament, declared the year one of jubilee. He announced on behalf of the Church that he was striking $802,000 (half the total deficit) from the amount still owed by certain Saints to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company. Then he asked that cattle and sheep be given to the poor and encouraged the Relief Society to lend wheat, which they had stored, without interest to less fortunate farmers. He called on everyone to give a helping hand to the destitute so that poverty in the territory might be eliminated.5

During the years of the apostolic presidency, the Twelve continued to expand the kingdom’s perimeters. Over one hundred new settlements were founded in such areas as Star Valley in western Wyoming, Castle Valley in eastern Utah, the rugged San Juan River country in southeastern Utah, the Virgin River territory in southern Nevada, and more in northern Arizona.

In October 1880, over three years after the death of President Young, a new First Presidency was created and sustained by the membership of the Church. Once again priesthood holders were asked to sit in a solemn assembly and vote by quorums. When the names of John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith were presented to the Saints, there was unanimous approval. Elders Cannon and Smith were men of great capabilities who served as counselors to President Taylor and to two subsequent presidents as well.6

The Practice of Plural Marriage

A large part of the persecution experienced by the Latter-day Saints centered around the practice of plural marriage, which was instituted under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The law of plural marriage was revealed to the Prophet as early as 1831, but he mentioned it only to a few trusted friends. Under strict commandment from God to obey the law, the Prophet began in 1841 to instruct leading priesthood brethren of the Church concerning plural marriage and their responsibility to live the law. The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated the revelation to William Clayton in 1843, when it was first written. Nine years passed, however, before the revelation was read in general conference and published.7

On 28–29 August 1852 a special conference was held in the Old Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. On the first day of the conference over one hundred missionaries were called to labor throughout the United States, Australia, India, China, and the islands of the sea. By holding the conference in August the missionaries were able to get an early start in crossing the plains before the cold weather set in.

On the second day of the conference, under the direction of President Brigham Young, Orson Pratt made the public announcement that the Church was practicing plural marriage under commandment of God. Speaking of the United States, he declared that “the constitution gives the privilege to all the inhabitants of this country, of the free exercise of their religious notions, and the freedom of their faith, and the practice of it. Then, if it can be proven to a demonstration, that the Latter-day Saints have actually embraced, as a part and portion of their religion, the doctrine of a plurality of wives, it is constitutional. And should there ever be laws enacted by this government to restrict them from the free exercise of this part of their religion, such laws must be unconstitutional.”8

Brother Pratt then delivered a lengthy discourse from a scriptural standpoint concerning plural marriage. He explained that marriage was ordained of God as the channel for spirits to acquire mortal bodies and that through plural marriage worthy priesthood holders could raise up a numerous righteous posterity unto the Lord. Brigham Young then spoke giving a brief history concerning the revelation on celestial marriage. Thomas Bullock, a clerk in the historian’s office, then read the revelation to the congregation for their sustaining vote.9

Expecting a great public outcry and a flood of negative publicity, Church leaders promptly sent four of its most faithful and articulate leaders to key population centers to launch newspapers that would both explain and justify “celestial marriage” and other restored gospel principles. Orson Pratt edited the Seer in the nation’s capital; John Taylor, the Mormon in New York City; Erastus Snow, the Saint Louis Luminary in St. Louis; and George Q. Cannon, the Western Standard in San Francisco.10In each of these publications the righteous motives of the Saints in entering plural marriage were portrayed, which contrasted sharply with the view put forth in the nation’s newspapers, pulp magazines, and cheap novels. Soon, in spite of the articles published by the Church’s best writers and the talks given by its most articulate speakers, groups formed and began to pressure the government to pass laws that would completely eradicate such a marriage system.

Anti-Polygamy Crusade

In spite of all the attempts by the Latter-day Saints to convince their fellow citizens that the practice of plural marriage was their religious and moral right, the nation united against the Church. Missionaries in England and on the continent of Europe were often mobbed, and some elders in America lost their lives. Many people believed polygamy was immoral, barbaric, and deplorable. A mass of anti-polygamy literature claiming to expose the true story of the degradation of women under polygamy was written, primarily by people who never came to Utah or who were only superficial observers.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed into law the anti-bigamy bill known as the Morrill Law, but because of the Civil War its enforcement was overlooked. This “legislation struck at both polygamy and Church power by prohibiting plural marriage in the territories, disincorporating the … Church, and restricting the Church’s ownership of property to fifty thousand dollars.”11The Saints, believing that the law unconstitutionally deprived them of their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion, chose to ignore this law at this time until it was constitutionally defined.

In the ensuing years, several bills aimed at strengthening the anti-bigamy law failed to pass the United States Congress. These included the Wade, Cragin, and Cullom bills which had their origin in the territory of Utah and were initiated by men who were bitterly opposed to the Church. The Wade Bill initiated in 1866 would have destroyed local government if it had passed. Three years later the Cragin Bill was proposed, but within a few days it was substituted by the Cullom Bill, which was more radical than the Wade or Cragin bills. Members of the Church rose en masse to work for the defeat of the bill. Women of the Church held mass meetings throughout the territory in January 1870 in opposition to the bill.

“While they opposed all the features of the anti-‘Mormon’ legislation, their action was principally in protest against the measures, and the remarks of would-be reformers, in which the women of the Church were spoken of as being ‘down-trodden’ and ‘degraded’ by their husband-oppressors.”12Opposition by Latter-day Saint women was a great surprise to politicians and suffragettes who saw them as the epitome of suffering and bondage. Newspapers in the East also opposed the bill because of its military features. The president of the United States would have power to send an army to Utah to execute the provisions of the bill. The New York World said: “Its execution will assuredly be followed by war.”13The Cullom Bill was defeated.

In June 1874, however, the Poland Law was passed. This act dismantled Utah’s judicial system by giving the United States district courts (controlled by non-Mormon federal appointees) exclusive civil and criminal jurisdiction. Individuals could now be brought to trial for breaking the Morrill Law. Under the Poland Act, jury lists were to be drawn by the district court clerk (a non-Mormon) and the probate judge (a Mormon) in order to give equal representation of members and nonmembers of the Church on juries. Immediately the United States attorney tried to bring leading Church officials to trial but experienced problems. Many of the Brethren had married before the law was passed in 1862 and could not be tried ex post facto . Furthermore, the wives could not be required to testify against their husbands, and the records for plural marriage that were kept privately in the Endowment House were not public record.

Church leaders became anxious to have a “test case” brought before the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the anti-bigamy law. So when the U.S. attorney, William Carey, promised to stop his attempts to indict General Authorities during the test case, the First Presidency chose thirty-two-year-old George Reynolds, a secretary in the office of the President, who had recently married a second wife, to stand in for the Church in the courts. Reynolds provided the attorney numerous witnesses who could testify of his being married to two wives. When Carey did not keep his promise and arrested President George Q. Cannon, Church leaders decided that they would no longer cooperate with him.14

In 1875 Reynolds was finally convicted and sentenced to two years hard labor in prison and a fine of five hundred dollars (later changed by the United States Supreme Court to imprisonment only). In 1876 the Utah Territorial Supreme Court upheld the sentence. In 1878 his appeal reached the United States Supreme Court, and in January 1879 that body ruled the anti-polygamy legislation constitutional and upheld Reynold’s sentence.15George Reynolds was released from prison in January 1881, having served eighteen months of his original sentence. During his incarceration he taught reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and geography to other prisoners. Brother Reynolds also worked on a book which he completed and later published. It was called A Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon. At the time of his release he had completed twenty-five thousand entries of this concordance.16

In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which defined “unlawful cohabitation” as supporting and caring for more than one woman. Proof of a second marriage was no longer needed. The law also disenfranchised polygamists and declared them ineligible for public office. Not only those who practiced but also those who believed in plural marriage were disqualified from jury service. All registration and election officers in Utah Territory were dismissed, and a board of five commissioners was appointed by the president of the United States to administer elections.17

Shortly after the passage of the Edmunds Act, the April 1882 general conference convened. As the Saints gathered on the second day, the gusting wind pelted them with sleet. Referring to both the weather and the recent legislation, President Taylor mentioned the nation’s bitter prejudice against the Saints and “warned them that a storm was coming, and that it would break in its fury upon them. ‘Let us treat it,’ said he, half humorously, ‘the same as we did this morning in coming through the snow-storm—put up our coat collars (suiting the action to the word) and wait till the storm subsides. After the storm comes sunshine. While the storm lasts it is useless to reason with the world; when it subsides we can talk to them.’” On the next day he said that the Saints would “contend inch by inch” for their liberties and rights as American citizens.19

Many Latter-day Saint men, and even some women, had to go “underground” to avoid arrest. Thus began one of the most difficult times in Latter-day Saint history. To avoid incarceration, codes were made up to warn polygamist fathers of the approach of federal officers. St. George’s stake president, J.D.T. McAllister, had the code name of Dan; Henry F. Eyring’s was Look. Communities had code names also. St. George was White, Beaver was Black, and Toquerville was Cloudy. United States marshals were coded Ring, and Judge Boreman was Herod. The warnings could be sent by telegraph and would have no meaning if confiscated by federal authorities.

At times officials became obsessed in their harassment of the Latter-day Saints. United States Marshal Fred T. Dubois, in an attempt to use anti-Mormonism for his own political ends in Idaho, crawled into hidden holes under houses, commandeered trains to make trips to Mormon centers, slipped into Latter-day Saint towns, and raided homes during the night in an attempt to capture polygamous men. In order to avoid arrest, the bishop of the Oxford, Idaho, ward, left town at “night stowed away in a box marked pork, Ogden freight.” He remained twenty-four hours in the box before being set free by a Brother Nesbitt. Then in the night he made his way to a brother-in-law’s home in Ogden, Utah, where he remained safe.

James Morgan went deep into the hills with his fifth wife, Anna, where he cut logs, which his boys hauled to town.

Hyrum Poole “was a young man who lived in Menan, Idaho. In the winter of 1883 he was having a late supper with his brother, William. … As they were eating there was a loud knock on the door, and as Hyrum opened it a gun barrel was rammed through and the intruder shouted, ‘Let us in or we’ll break the door down.’ Hyrum grabbed the gun barrel and threw his weight against the door as his brother and two hired men came to his assistance.

“Finally the persons forcing admittance condescended to explain that they were deputies with a warrant to search the premises for N. A. Stevens. They were permitted to enter at once, but Hyrum Poole reprimanded them for attempting to force their way in ‘like a band of cutthroats.’ Whereupon the leader, one William Hobson, an Eagle Rock saloonkeeper, partly intoxicated at the time, swiped him across the face with his rifle and said, ‘Consider yourselves under arrest for resisting an officer.’

“The search proved futile, and as the men withdrew they ordered Poole to come along. As he stepped outside into the dark, Hobson mashed him over the head with the end of his rifle, which cut him badly and knocked him down.” Poole and another prisoner “were taken to Blackfoot and thrown in jail, where they remained two days without food, medical attention, a hearing, or bonds.”20

Some Latter-day Saints were convicted and sent as far east as Detroit, where they served out their sentences in loneliness and fear.

Most of the Saints who were convicted were sent to Utah’s territorial penitentiary, where they were model prisoners. They were often found studying the gospel, writing books, or teaching the other prisoners reading, writing, and other neglected skills. When someone was released, community parties were held and tributes given to those who had preferred the laws of God to those of man. Perhaps it was more difficult for the families left behind. Some suffered from poverty, hunger, and sickness, without a husband and father to help. Thus, the crusade against the Church disrupted economic, social, ecclesiastical, and family life, and as the late 1880s drew near, darker clouds loomed on the horizon.

The Kingdom Moves Forward

Despite the “storm” of the anti-polygamy crusade, President Taylor guided the Church in the early 1880s through continuing progress. He regularly toured the stakes of Zion, setting them in order, teaching, counseling, and encouraging the Saints with great energy. He urged the people to upgrade their behavior in all the relations of life—as husbands, wives, parents, children, neighbors, and citizens—and to observe unity, honor, integrity, honesty, and purity in thought and act.

In 1881, President Taylor published a pamphlet he had written entitled Items on Priesthood ; it instructed the various priesthood holders, especially young men then being ordained into the Aaronic Priesthood, in their respective offices. The following year he issued his book Mediation and Atonement, bringing together a collection of scriptural passages with commentary, illustrating the necessity and the glory and power of the Savior’s atonement for the sins of the world.21

His instructions to the Saints were founded upon the revelations he received. Following a pattern set by the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Taylor often wrote and published the inspiration given to him. One such revelation was dictated on 13 October 1882, just a few days after general conference. For two years the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had only ten members, and the vacancies had weighed heavily on the prophet’s mind. The revelation called George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant to the apostleship and physician Seymour B. Young to the First Council of the Seventy. It also called for increasing missionary work among various Indian tribes and for an increase in righteousness among priesthood bearers and all the Saints.22

An experience of Elder Heber J. Grant a few months later gives some background to this revelation. Heber reported that for the first few months of his apostleship he felt that he was not qualified to be a special witness of the Savior. While traveling on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona in February 1883, helping establish the Church among the Indians, Elder Grant told his companions he wanted some time by himself and took a different route to their destination. He later recounted what happened as he rode:

“I seemed to see, and I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in all my life, I seemed to see a Council in heaven. I seemed to hear the words that were spoken. … The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles had not been able to agree on two men to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. … In this Council the Savior was present, my father [Jedediah M. Grant] was there, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was there. They discussed the question that a mistake had been made in not filling those two vacancies and that in all probability it would be another six months before the Quorum would be completed, and they discussed as to whom they wanted to occupy those positions, and decided that the way to remedy the mistake that had been made in not filling these vacancies was to send a revelation. It was given to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith and my father mentioned me and requested that I be called to that position. I sat there and wept for joy. …

“… From that day I have never been bothered, night or day, with the idea that I was not worthy to stand as an Apostle.”23

On 17 May 1884, President Taylor dedicated the Logan Utah Temple. It was the fourth temple in the Church and the second to be completed in Utah. The evening before, President Taylor asked the Lord if the building was acceptable. His prayer was answered and a revelation given to him, in which the Lord told him that “in these houses which have been built unto me, and which shall be built, I will reveal the abundance of those things pertaining to the past, the present, and the future, to the life that now is, and the life that is to come, pertaining to law, order, rule, dominion and government, to things affecting this nation and other nations; the laws of the heavenly bodies in their times and seasons, and the principles or laws by which they are governed.”24The Saints the next day witnessed a rich outpouring of the Spirit at the temple’s dedication.

During President Taylor’s administration several Church publications were republished or published for the first time. Of greatest importance were the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, which were reissued in 1879 with extensive cross-references and explanatory notes. The Pearl of Great Price, published in 1878, had previously been a missionary tract. The work on these publications was performed by Elder Orson Pratt. These new editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price were formally canonized in the October 1880 general conference. Beginning in 1879, Junius F. Wells produced the first edition of the monthly periodical the Contributor, which became the official publication of the Mutual Improvement Association. Andrew Jenson, assistant Church historian, published the Historical Record , which contained numerous accounts and chronologies that have become invaluable to the study and writing of Church history. The Church also continued to emphasize economic unity. Zion’s Central Board of Trade was organized to replace united orders. Boards of trade were created in each stake to function under the coordination of the central organization. They promoted business activities, sought new markets, disseminated information to farmers and manufacturers, prevented competition harmful to home industry, and sometimes regulated wages and prices for community benefit.25

Missionary Work Continues

Missionary work continued to expand. Elder Moses Thatcher dedicated Mexico for the preaching of the gospel in 1881, though there had been some successful efforts in that land since 1876. Work also began among the Maori people in New Zealand in 1881. In 1884 Jacob Spori opened the Turkish Mission, which was later extended to include Palestine.26Led by a vision he had received in Constantinople, Elder Spori found converts among the German-speaking people in Haifa who had come to the Holy Land to await the second coming of Christ. Missionary work also continued successfully in the British Isles, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Holland, and Germany.

In the United States missionary work was also growing. For example, John Morgan, remembering a dream he had even before he joined the Church, was led to a small community in Georgia, where he taught the gospel and baptized almost everyone who lived there. Missionary work, however, was not without dangers, especially in the American south. As the Church continued to grow in the South, opposition increased rapidly.

On 21 July 1879, Elders Joseph Standing and Rudger Clawson were planning to leave for a conference of the Church in Rome, Georgia. While traveling in the area of Varnell’s Station, they were surrounded by a dozen armed ruffians who threatened them and led them into a forest. While three of the men rode off to search for a more secluded area, the elders were verbally abused. When the three returned, Elder Standing, who had somehow gotten a gun, suddenly stood, aimed it at them, and yelled, “Surrender!” Quickly a man seated next to him fired at the young elder, hitting him in the face. Faced with a dozen rifles, Elder Clawson folded his arms and calmly awaited death. The rifles were lowered, and he was allowed to go for help for his companion. Returning with others Elder Clawson found his companion dead, having been shot several times in the head and neck at point-blank range. Elder Standing’s body, attended by Elder Clawson, was taken to Salt Lake City where he was reverently honored by the Saints as yet another martyr to the divine cause they shared.27

At the time of the murder, Joseph Standing had served sixteen months of a second mission to the southern states and was expecting his release at any time. President John Morgan and Elder Clawson later returned to Georgia to testify against the murderers, who were nevertheless acquitted.

Five years later, on 10 August 1884, the Cane Creek Massacre took place. This incident was directly attributable to the wide dissemination, following its publication by the Salt Lake Tribune, of the “Bishop West address,” a spurious sermon purportedly delivered by a Mormon bishop in Juab, Utah, in March 1884. Although it was quickly ascertained that no Bishop West existed in Juab and that the vile sermon against the Gentiles was concocted, nevertheless the supposed address was circulated widely in the eastern and southern United States. A copy found its way to Lewis County, Tennessee, and its contents were spread among anti-Mormon elements.

Mobsters approached a Sabbath meeting of the Saints at the residence of James Condor and began shooting. Two missionaries—John H. Gibbs and William S. Berry—two members of the Condor family, and the leader of the mob were killed. The mission president was temporarily absent, and a young B. H. Roberts, who had been left in charge of the mission, disguised himself and risked his life to go to Cane Creek, exhume the bodies of the elders, and return them to Utah for burial.28He later bore witness that he was given divine help. As in the case of Elder Standing, the murderers were tried and acquitted.

Again the Storm Increased

Before the end29of the 1880s every community of the Saints was increasingly subject to harassment by deputy marshals. More than a thousand men, and even a few women, went to prison on charges of polygamy. President Taylor went into hiding, as did Wilford Woodruff and other Church officials.

By the end of 1885 because of persecution, hundreds of colonists, chiefly from Arizona and New Mexico, poured into hastily established settlements in Mexico. Elder George Teasdale presided over these exiled Saints. In 1886 Charles Ora Card, president of the Cache Stake in northern Utah, was asked to find a place of asylum in Canada. He succeeded in securing land in what is now known as the Cardston, Alberta, area, and Mormon settlements were soon established in that region.

As the judicial crusade against polygamy continued, a new way of life was created for many Saints. Otherwise law-abiding men escaped to the underground and frequently moved from place to place to avoid the marshals who were hunting them. Fleeing “cohabs” (as they were called) went into canyons, barns, fields, and cellars to avoid their pursuers. Federal officers countered by disguising themselves as peddlers or census takers in order to gain entry into homes. Some marshals raided houses, invading privacy and even mistreating wives and children to catch their prey. Ten- and twenty-dollar bounties were offered for every Latter-day Saint captured, and much larger amounts were available if a General Authority was apprehended. One tragedy occurred on 16 December 1886.

Edward M. Dalton of Parowan was shot and killed by Deputy Marshal William Thompson, Jr., as Dalton was riding on horseback down a street in Parowan. Dalton had been indicted in 1885 for unlawful cohabitation and had evaded trial by going to Arizona. He had returned to Parowan when the incident took place.30

In 1886, President John Taylor, still in hiding, moved into the comfortable farm home of Thomas F. Rouche, mayor of Kaysville, Utah. There he continued his practice of communicating with the Saints by means of general epistles. Messages were conveyed between him and other Church leaders by horse and buggy under guard and cover of darkness. During this period President Taylor’s health continued to deteriorate, and President George Q. Cannon handled much of the Church’s business, even though he was also in hiding. Second Counselor Joseph F. Smith was so sought after that he went on a mission to Hawaii.

On 25 July 1887, President Taylor died while still in exile. Marshals were present at his funeral, but no arrests were made. Wilford Woodruff, who now presided over the Church, was in hiding. It was a time that tested the Saints’ loyalty to their God, who had commanded them to live plural marriage amidst a nation who opposed and legislated against it.

With the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Act in March 1887, wives were required to testify against their husbands, and all marriages were to be publicly recorded. The law also provided that county probate judges be appointed by the president of the United States. Women’s suffrage was abolished in Utah, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund was dissolved, as was the Nauvoo Legion, and a public education system was established. The Church was disincorporated, and authority was given to the United States attorney general to escheat (turn back to the United States) all Church property and holdings valued over fifty thousand dollars. Federally sponsored persecution of the Church thus continued into the new administration of President Wilford Woodruff.

Time Line

Date

 

Significant Event

1862

Congress passed the Morrill Act—the first anti-polygamy law

1874

Poland Act passed, allowing for indictments of men involved in plural marriage

1875

George Reynolds convicted in “test case”

1877

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with John Taylor as its President, took leadership of the Church after the death of Brigham Young

1879

Supreme Court decision in George Reynolds versus the United States upheld anti-polygamy legislation

Oct. 1880

John Taylor sustained as third President of the Church

1882–83

Seventies quorums restructured and revitalized

1882

Edmunds Act passed, intensifying the anti-polygamy crusade

1885

Colonies in Mexico established

1885

President Taylor, other Church Authorities, and many members went “underground”

25 July 1887

President John Taylor died in Kaysville, Utah

1887

Edmunds-Tucker Act passed

John Taylor

President John Taylor (1808–87)

The Mormon newspaper

John Taylor’s newspaper, the Mormon, was printed on the same street as the New York Herald and the New York Tribune, leading New York newspapers. Elder Taylor’s bold title was equaled by the fact that the masthead occupied nearly half of the front page. On the left side of the eagle was a Mormon creed, “Mind your own business.”

The Mormon was a weekly twenty-eight column newspaper, which was first issued 17 February 1855 and continued until September 1857.

Ellis R. Shipp

Dr. Ellis R. Shipp (1847–1939) was born in Iowa and went to Utah in 1853 with her parents.

Dr. Ellis Shipp, herself a plural wife, believed that without polygamy she would never have had the time nor been able to leave her children in the careful care of loved sister-wives to pursue her medical degree. She graduated from medical school in Philadelphia in 1878, becoming the second Utah woman doctor. She also did graduate work at the University of Michigan Medical School.

While mothering her own ten children, Dr. Shipp delivered over six thousand babies in her sixty years of practice. Sister Shipp served as a member of the general board of the Relief Society from 1898 to 1907.

Courtesy of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City

George Reynolds

George Reynolds (1842–1909) was converted to the gospel as a young boy but was unable to be baptized for several years because of the opposition of his parents. He was finally baptized on 4 May 1856 at the age of fourteen.

George held many Church positions in England before coming to America in 1865. Soon thereafter he became secretary to the First Presidency, a calling he fulfilled until the end of his life. He was also called as a President of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1890. His famous concordance of the Book of Mormon18required twenty-one years of labor to produce.

Detroit prison

During the anti-polygamy crusade, Latter-day Saints from the intermountain west were arrested, tried, and, if convicted, were often given prison sentences. One little-known aspect of the crusade is that many Idaho Mormons convicted of “unlawful cohabitation” served their sentences in the Detroit House of Corrections. This is a picture of the Detroit, Michigan, prison about the time of their incarceration.

Courtesy of Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Utah Territorial Prison

The United States Congress, on 3 March 1853, approved an appropriation for a penitentiary in Utah. Several months later a prison site was selected by Almon W. Babbitt, who was serving as territorial secretary of Utah. The prison, located in the Salt Lake City area, was completed in 1854 and enclosed an area of about seven acres. The exterior walls were made of adobe and were twelve feet high and four feet thick.

Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society

James Paxton mementos

Wood carving and autograph book of James Paxton. During this period many Latter-day Saints were imprisoned for their religious beliefs. While in prison they carved wooden objects, compiled autograph books, and kept journals of their thoughts and actions.

Jacob Spori

A native of Switzerland, Jacob Spori (1847–1903) became the first Church missionary in Palestine.

Upon migrating to Utah he devoted himself to education. Later locating in Rexburg, Idaho, he was appointed principal of the new Bannock Stake Academy, which eventually became Ricks College. He made great sacrifices to achieve this success. At one point he even went to work at the railroad to pay the salaries of two other teachers so he could keep the school operating.

John Morgan

John Morgan (1842–94) fought as a Union soldier in the Civil War and then moved to Utah in 1866 where he was an educator. He was converted to the gospel and baptized on 26 November 1867. Brother Morgan was then called to serve a mission to the southern states between 1875 and 1877. In 1878 he returned to preside over that mission. He was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1884, and he served in this capacity until his death.

Joseph Standing

Joseph Standing (1854–79) is one of the martyrs of the Church. Between 1875 and 1876 he fulfilled a mission to the southern states. He returned for a second mission there in 1878, and because of his kind, mild, and wise manner, President John Morgan assigned him to the hostile district of Georgia. Elder Rudger Clawson joined him early in 1879.

News of Joseph Standing’s murder in Georgia greatly affected the Church in Utah, and nearly ten thousand people attended his funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

B. H. Roberts in disguise

B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) here posed for the camera in the disguise he used to enable him to retrieve the bodies of Elders Gibbs and Berry. Brother Roberts spent his childhood in England. When he came to America, he walked nearly all the way across the plains to Utah.

To his formal education at the University of Deseret he added considerable self education and became one of the most articulate and eloquent orators and writers in the Church’s history. He edited and published the seven-volume History of the Church (History of Joseph Smith) and later published a six-volume history of the first century of the Church, known as A Comprehensive History of the Church.

He became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1888 at the age of thirty-one. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1898 but was not allowed to take his seat because of controversy over his involvement in polygamy.

Beyond the age of sixty he was a chaplain in America and France for Utah soldiers serving in World War I during 1917–18.

pioneer home

Because of the severe nature of the anti-polygamy raids, President John Taylor went “underground” on 1 February 1885 and moved about periodically. On 22 November 1886 he was moved to the Thomas F. Rouche home in Kaysville, Utah. Surrounded by shade trees and with a pleasant view to the east across a mile of farm land to the village of Kaysville, and the mountains behind it, the Rouche home was the last dwelling of John Taylor. Diarists attending him noted that he was ill intermittently from April to June of 1887.

Meanwhile, his counselor George Q. Cannon secretly traveled between Kaysville and Salt Lake City to conduct much of the Church’s business. Late in June, President Taylor began to fail. He ate little, lapsed into unconsciousness for periods of time, and on the evening of 25 July he quietly passed away.

Gardo house

The Gardo house was the official Salt Lake residence of President John Taylor. Upon his death, his body was returned there and prepared for burial. On 29 July 1887 his body was taken to the Tabernacle to lie in state.

Construction on the Gardo house began under the direction of Brigham Young and was completed during John Taylor’s administration. It was dedicated by Franklin D. Richards on 22 February 1883. Following the death of John Taylor, the Gardo house was used by Wilford Woodruff as a Church office. The Gardo house was purchased from the Church by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and they had it razed in November 1921.

Show References

    Endnotes

  1.   1.

    This paragraph is derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), p. 377.

  2.   2.

    Wilford Woodruff Journals, 4 Sept. 1877, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling standardized.

  3.   3.

    “General Conference,” Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 9 Oct. 1877, p. 2.

  4.   4.

    Derived from Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), pp. 425, 429.

  5.   5.

    See B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963), pp. 334–37.

  6.   6.

    Previous two paragraphs derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 381–82, 385.

  7.   7.

    See Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 Mar. 1883, Historical Department, Salt Lake City, pp. 8–10; Territorial Enquirer, 6 Mar. 1883; “Celestial Marriage: How and When the Revelation Was Given,” Deseret Evening News, 20 May 1886, p. 2.

  8.   8.

    Millennial Star, Supplement, 1853, p. 18.

  9.   9.

    Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 278.

  10.   10.

    B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century One, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 4:61–62, 66.

  11.   11.

    Gustive O. Larson, “Government, Politics, and Conflict” in Richard D. Poll et al., eds., Utah’s History, 2d ed. (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1989), p. 244.

  12.   12.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), p. 444.

  13.   13.

    Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 5:314.

  14.   14.

    Previous two paragraphs derived from Larson, “Government, Politics, and Conflict,” pp. 252, 254.

  15.   15.

    Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 358.

  16.   16.

    See Bruce A. Van Orden, “George Reynolds: Secretary, Sacrificial Lamb, and Seventy,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1986, pp. 53, 57–62, 71, 76–77, 80–86, 103, 108.

  17.   17.

    Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 394, 411.

  18.   18.

    George Reynolds, A Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co., 1957).

  19.   19.

    Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 360, 362.

  20.   20.

    M. D. Beal, A History of Southeastern Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1942), pp. 86, 312–13.

  21.   21.

    Roberts, Life of John Taylor, p. 367.

  22.   22.

    See Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 349–51.

  23.   23.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1941, pp. 4–5.

  24.   24.

    Paul Thomas Smith, “John Taylor,” in Leonard J. Arrington, ed., The Presidents of the Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986), pp. 110–11.

  25.   25.

    Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 382–85.

  26.   26.

    Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 388.

  27.   27.

    See “The Murder of Joseph Standing,” Deseret News, 6 Aug. 1879, pp. 428–29; “The Funeral Services of Elder Joseph Standing,” Deseret News, 6 Aug. 1879, p. 429.

  28.   28.

    See Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:86–93; “Death of James Condor,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1911, pp. 1107–8.

  29.   29.

    Section derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 386–88, 396, 398–400, 406.

  30.   30.

    See Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:116–21; “Homicide at Parowan,” Deseret News, 22 Dec. 1886, p. 777.